Stages' production of the landmark musical "West Side Story," opening on Friday, Sept. 5 at Meralco Theater, is a highly anticipated revival in Asia, preceding as it does a new Broadway production in 2009. The local production features a stellar cast of pop artists and international thespians: Christian Bautista, Karylle, Joanna Ampil, Rowena Vilar, Pam G, Jake Macapagal, Jeff Singson, and Gian Magdangal, with stage direction by Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and musical direction by Gerard Salonga with the FILharmoniKA orchestra.
In Manila, "West Side Story" was first staged by Repertory Philippines in 1981, with Yulo playing the role of Maria and Cocoy Laurel as Tony. Audie Gemora, who is now "West Side Story's" executive producer, played "Jets" gang leader Riff.
"West Side Story" transports the classic tale of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to the turbulent streets of the Upper West Side in 1950s New York City. Star-crossed lovers Tony (Bautista) and Maria (Karylle and Ampil) find themselves caught between rival street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds, the "Jets," led by Riff (Magdangal), and the "Sharks," led by Bernardo (Macapagal and Singson). The young lovers' struggle to exist together in a world of violence, hate and prejudice is one of the most heartrending, relevant, and innovative musical masterpieces of all time, originally conceived for the stage by director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.
"West Side Story" highlights the many show-stopping numbers and immortal songs of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim like "Somewhere," "Tonight," "One Hand, One Heart," "America," and "Something's Coming."
While the new Broadway production is said to present the "Sharks" speaking and singing in Spanish, Yulo says the local production is staying true to what "West Side Story" was in 1957, including re-creating Jerome Robbins' choreography.
Completing the cast of "West Side Story" are Jordan Aguilar, Marielle Alonzo, Jed Amihan, Rosanne Araneta, Earl Baer, April Luz Belarmino, Caissa Borromeo, Joanna Marie Cabrega, Red Concepcion, Napoleon Ching, Pom Decena, Carlos Deriada, Guji Lorenzana, John Philip Martir, Francis Matheu, Beth Munar, Michelle Murenec, Mikaela Padilla, Anthony Ong, Vinia Pamplona, Sam Prudenciando, Rizza Ribo, Bobby Superales, Jay-Anne Tensuan, Erwin Villanueva, Gerald Yranon, Noel Zabala, and theater veterans Richard Cunanan, James Paolelli and Jaime del Mundo.
Mio Infante is scenographer, John Batalla is lighting director, Bobbit Jacinto is sound designer and Eric Pineda is costume designer.
"West Side Story" runs at Meralco Theater on Sept. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, Oct. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12, 2008. For tickets, call Ticketworld at 8919999 or Stages at 8181111 loc. 225. Ticketworld is online at www.ticketworld.com.ph. Ticket prices range from P500 to P1,200.
"West Side Story" is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI) in New York.